This Wednesday I went on a coffee date with a lady friend. Ok, neither of us took coffee but that is neither here nor there. I had told the lady I would be in town by 5.30pm, latest 6. I was lucky, because that day my office schedule was light. So I cleared my day’s assignments by 4 pm and told my boss I intended to leave early, because I had a meeting in town at 5.30 pm and wanted to avoid traffic jam. I can see my friends Valarie and Auma look up and raise their eyebrows. Stop judging me ladies, I did not lie.
“Really Maro?” That can only be the Most Reverend Dr. Sister Valarie, LL.B, M.Div., PhD., HEAVEN, ARCH, CHERUBIM.
Her eyes are now perfectly round behind her glasses, and her mouth is shaped in the form of a smile. She can smell a theological debate.
“Yea, really. I was going for an informal meeting with a friend, who happened to be a lady, to discuss important life issues over coffee. I just did not feel under obligation to disclose who I was meeting or the nature of my meeting to my boss. Neither did she ask,”
“You are such a lawyer,” Auma would say, forgetting she is a lawyer too. And by the way, being told you are such a lawyer is not meant to be a compliment.
“Maro, Sarah was Abraham’s sister, but he still lied because she was his wife. Half a truth is a lie,” that would be Val.
“You realise that at the end of that story King Abimelech is told to ask Abraham to pray for him, no?”
“You are not Abraham”
Let me preempt the above conversation before it actually happens. Here is the thing. Abraham set out to deceive, I wasn’t. I was just drawing a line between my professional life and my social life. Or something like that.
Anyway, in the course of my conversation with my friend, an interesting topic came up. She told me she is concerned about her apparent inability to retain friends. I could totally relate to that because a while back I had similar concerns of that nature myself. Until someone told me something profound. That while a few friendships last a lifetime, most have a shelf life. They are seasonal. They will expire at some point. And so I stopped feeling bad when a friendship grows lukewarm.
And in this life I have had many friendships. The earliest I can remember is a guy called Karani. We were together in primary school, and were inseparable. We spent our break times together, walked home together and generally were always together, two tiny boys in lower primary. But then I changed schools and that was the end of it. In my new school I met two new characters, James and Augustine. These two quickly became my best friends. Then in Std 8, our class was split into two. Our class had 34 pupils, so each of the new classes had 17 pupils. I was in 8 Batian, which had 12 girls and 5 boys, while Augustine and James were in 8 Lenana, which had 11 boys and 6 girls. Obviously the one who did the subdividing had a first class degree in gender affairs. So, because of the new gender arithmetic, I got a new friend in 8 Batian called Evans. But we soon cleared school and went to different High Schools, and I lost touch with Evans and Augustine. James and I went to Ikuu Boys. We stayed close at the beginning, but by form 2 we had started drifting apart. By form four each of us had a new set of friends.
It is in High School that I met Arnold. This is the oldest of my existing friendships, clocking 10 years this year. I won’t say much about this guy, as I already did that in the article Celebrating a Legend. But I had other friends in High School. But closeness with these others did not survive long post high school. After High School I was employed as a peer teacher at the same school. Here I became friends with two folks, Eric and Morris. We had no option. We were the youngest in the staffroom. We also lived in the same house. The school had allocated us a three bedroom, furnished staff mansion, complete with flowerbeds and a lawn. Ok, the mansion was wooden. The flowers were wild and the grass was overgrown. The furniture included an old armchair, a high, wooden table and three beds that creaked loudly at the slightest pressure. The roof sometimes leaked. But we were grateful because we were not paying rent, and that allowed us to live in some level of luxury.
But soon Morris disappeared to Kimathi University and Eric to Masinde Muliro. They were replaced by Nicholas and Cosmas who also had no option but to be close to me. But then they also left, Cosmas to Moi University, Nicholas to KU. Traditionally, Magoha was not in a hurry to admit us. We were usually the last to report to school. I wouldn’t blame him. Every new intake came with a few characters with the potential of giving him sleepless nights. Rascals who did not appreciate the fact that a Professor of Surgery requires peace of mind without spoilt brats throwing stones at his office.
But eventually I did join UoN School of Law. Most of my current close friends are from campus, so they are mostly lawyers, with the notable exception of Arnold. Now, even in campus I did have very close friends with whom I talked every day. But that did not survive the post campus dynamics, so what is really left is an inner ring of friends that are closer to me than the rest.
Someone like Jairus Otieno, a big brother who is always ready to share wisdom (or the lack of it) in spiritual and social aspects of life. And the guy has a crazy sense of humour too. He is always ready to help, and notably, he helped me get over a social torpedo that struck me sometime in the not too distant past.
Geoffrey Sore is another big brother. Here the word ‘big’ is not figurative. He is like, a big, big brother. He also shares a lot of wisdom, and is a patient listener and calm speaker. But these says I use him more to solve legal riddles whenever my boss presents me with assignments that are out of my depth. He is on speed dial on my office phone.
James Mbugua is the guy I meet randomly every now and then just to talk. But our conversations have a tendency to get deep whenever we sit down to talk. He is the one guy who will give brutal advice gently. Which is weird because he is not the kind you would ordinarily associate with gentleness. He is hyper active, a bag of muscles with the energy of a young stallion. Perhaps the star player that Mean Machine never discovered. But he is so full of life you can’t afford to be miserable in his presence.
Justus Omollo is another guy I meet randomly. We meet at his house every now and then to take uji. This guy has the potential to be serious, but that potential is rarely utilized so he is fun to be with. He has the neatest house of all my friends. Ok, Faith beats him to it but he comes a close second, which is phenomenal for a guy. And he is also an excellent cook and a sharp dresser. Not like some of us who dress just to cover nakedness. You see, colors baffle us, so we pick the nearest shirt and the nearest tie. Trousers are invariably black. Makes life easier. After all, you are going to draft contracts in a law office, not to walk down a runway in a fashion show. But really, Justus’ Jaber got a real package.
Then there is Brian Tororei a.k.a Chung Wing, the philosopher. This guy makes me feel deep just by associating with him. He doesn’t just roll out words carelessly like I do. No, he considers every word carefully. He even considers what interpretation his pauses may be given. He keeps long hair that is sometimes tied tightly into a ponytail, to ensure his wisdom does not escape. But in case it accidentally does, he has a bicycle to chase it and stuff it into his back pack, for repatriation into the head. Ideas do not grow on trees, so they have to be guarded carefully.
Macharia ‘Major’ Munene is my financial advisor. I lived with him immediately after campus and he was responsible for feeding me with Jim Rohn and Robert Kiyosaki videos. It is through Major that I first read the Richest Man in Babylon. Even today, whenever we meet we talk about how Christians should make sound financial decisions. I have read the book of Proverbs many times, but it is he who brought a particular scripture in Proverbs 13:22 to my attention: A righteous man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.
Valarie Munagi’s primary duty in my life is to keep me in the narrow path. We may not talk as much as we used to when we were in campus, but I know she watches everything I do. So if I happen to make a ridiculous post here on this blog or on Facebook, I will certainly get a call or text. Valarie appointed herself my spiritual policeman ages ago, and it is a turf she is keen to protect. She is also the most hospitable of my friends, and you will always find people at her house. When I was CU chair and she was my deputy, I used to meet the congregation at her house. So we used to call her room ‘CU Office’. She has a way of making everyone feel comfortable.
Faith Sulwe is a loyal and dependable friend. She is easily the neatest of my friends. She has white everything, including floor mats. She appears tough, but she is one of the most caring people I know. She also has a knack for asking interesting legal questions, which make me research. She therefore helps me grow outside our firm’s field of practice. She is also very interesting to talk to, as she has an opinion on most topics. That makes conversations very interesting. It is hard to talk to someone who says I don’t know in almost every subject. Fai is the type you don’t want to let down.
Susan Mutahi is the quiet, intelligent type that watch silently as fools expose their folly at the top of their lungs. She ensures I read my Bible consistently, because she comes up with very profound Biblical questions that I am supposed to know the answer to, seeing as I was CU chairman. She has a pragmatic view of the Christian faith that is very appealing. She is also very informed, and knows very strange facts. No wonder she always beats me in every category in the mind games at Sporcle.com, except listing of US Presidents. Faith Karembo knows the best fiction books to read. She also has interesting ideas about life, that always leave me amused and impressed.
I have many more friends that space will not allow me to mention. But the question is, will I have all of them 10 years down the line? The answer is most likely no. Because as we grow older, career, spouses and children will get in the way. So some will go, some will stay and new ones will definitely come. I can already feel myself drifting away from some of them. And I have met new characters at church who have the potential of joining the inner ring of my friends over time.
It is important to cultivate friendships. And put work in there to make them work. But if a friendship has come to a season finale, the wisest thing to do is let it go. Clinging on will only hurt you. Sometimes you don’t think it is time but the writing is on the wall. So you find yourself always running to catch the attention of a friend. And when you ask they say, you know how my schedule is, I am too busy. Truth is, nobody is too busy for what is important to them. They are simply saying that you are no longer a priority in their life. It doesn’t mean they are bad people. Neither does it mean you have failed. It simply means that that season in your lives is over. So move on and get yourself new friends.